inchoative aspect


Inchoative aspect (also called inceptive aspect) is a verbal category, referring to an action soon to take place. It can be found in conservative Indo-European languages such as Latin and Lithuanian, and also in Balto-Finnic languages. In other languages, auxiliary verbs can be used, for example French (as aller plus infinitive: je vais faire "I am going to do", Futur_proche), English (often as "I am going to do" or "I am about to do"). In these cases, the term near future is more commonly used.

Since inchoative is an aspect and not a tense, it can be combined with tenses to form present inchoative, past inchoative and future inchoative, all used in Lithuanian. Finnish employs a systematic construction ole-TEMP-PERS X-maisilla-POSS "to be on (my/your/etc.) X-ings", where the temporal and personal ending and possessive suffix are to be selected according to the context. For example, "ol+i+t kaatu+maisilla+si", literally "you were on your fallings down", meaning "you were about to fall down". The -maisilla- is a string of derivational suffixes: ma participle; i plural; s adjective suffix; lla adessive case. In Russian, inchoatives are regularly derived from unidirectional imperfective verbs of motion by adding the prefix по-, e.g. бежать - побежать: "to run" - "to start running". Also cf. шли (normal past tense plural of идти - "to go") vs. "Пошли!" meaning approximately "We'll be off! / We're gone!"

The term inchoative verb is used by generative grammarians to refer to a class of verbs that reflect a change of state. e.g., John aged or The fog cleared. This usage bears little or no relationship to the aspectual usage described above.

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